Update 1:30 p.m. : A spokesman with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department says the victim of the fatal fire this morning has been identified by the Linn County Medical Examiner’s Office as 81-year old Ronald J. Gillen. An autopsy is pending to determine the exact cause of death.
The other victim, who was conscious when she was taken by ambulance, has been identified as 76-year-old Daphne Rae Gillen. Gillen sustained injuries as the result of the fire and was transported to Mercy Medical Center, where her current condition is unknown.
The Fire Department determined that the fire originated in the bed within the bedroom where Ronald Gillen was found. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
An 81-year-old man died in a house fire in northeast Cedar Rapids this morning. Cedar Rapids Fire Department spokesman, Greg Buelow, says neighbors saw smoke and flames coming from the back half of a single family home just before seven A.M. and called 9-1-1.
“When firefighters arrived on scene, the scene was fairly chaotic. There was a 76-year-old female victim who was taken from the house by neighbors. They helped her down a back patio door and down some steps and helped her to the front drive to start administering medical care, because she had some fire injuries,” Buelow explains. He says the neighbors told firefighters there was another person still inside the home that they could get to.
Buelow says the neighbor had tried to go in the front door, but got two steps in and it was so hot and smoky that the neighbor came back out. Firefighters then found the victim.
“There were two bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper level fully involved with fire,” Buelow says. “They ended up finally locating the victim, but at that point…the outcome did not look favorable based on the fact that there were flames shooting out the back window, (the fire) had already breached the back window and broken it, and the flames had already punctured a hole in the roof.”
Buelow says the spread of the fire by the time firefighters found the victim indicated the fire had been burning for eight or ten minutes or more and that led to the intense heat and smoke that made it difficult for anyone to survive inside. The condition of the woman is not known, although she was conscious when taken from the scene.
The names of the victims are being withheld until relatives can be notified. Buelow says there appeared to be a working smoke detector in the home, but it is still a mystery why the warning did not give the residents enough time to get out.
“Obviously we’re gonna wanna do an interview and check with the female victim to see how she was alerted to the fire. But it’s very possible the victim had a medical condition or other circumstance that would have inhibited his ability to get out on his own,” Buelow says. He says it has been 12 years since they’ve had a fire-related death in a home where the was a working smoke detector and that’s why they believe there might be other factors that kept the victims from getting out.
He says they are still trying to find the cause of the fire. While the heat and smoke were intense, Buelow says there were no injuries to firefighters. The fire department says the home suffered extensive damage. Firefighters say they are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.
The last fire fatality in Cedar Rapids occurred on February 26, when 43-year old Kerry M. Bye died in his home.